Surgeon Attitudes Toward Nonphysician Screening of Low Back or Low Back–Related Leg Pain Patients Referred for Surgical Assessment
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STUDY DESIGN: Questionnaire survey. OBJECTIVE: To explore spine surgeons' attitudes toward the involvement of nonphysician clinicians (NPCs) to screen patients with low back or low back-related leg pain referred for surgical assessment. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Although the utilization of physician assistants is common in several healthcare systems, the attitude of spine surgeons toward the independent assessment of patients by NPCs remains uncertain. METHODS: We administered a 28-item survey to all 101 surgeon members of the Canadian Spine Society, which inquired about demographic variables, patient screening efficiency, typical wait times for both assessment and surgery, important components of low back-related complaints history and examination, indicators for assessment by a surgeon, and attitudes toward the use of NPCs to screen patients with low back and leg pain referred for elective surgical assessment. RESULTS: Eighty-five spine surgeons completed our survey, for a response rate of 84.1%. Most respondents (77.6%) were interested in working with an NPC to screen patients with low back-related complaints referred for elective surgical assessment. Perception of suboptimal wait time for consultation and poor screening efficiency for surgical candidates were associated with greater surgeon interest in an NPC model of care. We achieved majority consensus regarding the core components for a low back-related complaints history and examination, and findings that would support surgical assessment. A majority of respondents (75.3%) agreed that they would be comfortable not assessing patients with low back-related complaints referred to their practice if indications for surgery were ruled out by an NPC. CONCLUSION: The majority of Canadian spine surgeons were open to an NPC model of care to assess and triage nonurgent or emergent low back-related complaints. Clinical trials to establish the effectiveness and acceptance of an NPC model of care by all stakeholders are urgently needed.
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